The Royal Melbourne Golf Club - The Composite Course
February 19, 2015
Watch interviews provided by Golf Australia
South Korea’s Ilhee Lee fired a 5-under-par 68 on Thursday to take a one shot lead at the ISPS Handa Women’s
Australian Open in a season that a Korean player has won each of the season’s first two events. But Lee’s goal isn’t as much continuing her country’s season-opening streak as it is last name domination.
“I know there’s I think seven Lees playing this week, right? It’s not all from Korea, but still, lots of Lees. I want to be the most famous Lee, that’s my goal,” she said after the round.
She certainly was the best Lee on Thursday, playing a bogey-free round in which she hit 17 of 18 greens. Nipping on her heels one shot back is Ariya Jutanugarn, who has been on a rookie tear to start 2015 after opening with an 11th place finish and then losing in a playoff at the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic.
World No. 1 Lydia Ko used a back-nine eagle on the 14th to climb into a tie for third after round one with a 3-under 70. Ko hit 16 of 18 greens on Thursday but the slick Royal Melbourne greens proved a tough test for her trusty flat stick.
“It’s definitely good to start off well here. It’s definitely a tough course. I really tried to stay patient. I didn’t hole that many putts, but I didn’t make that many mistakes with it either,” Ko said. “I think that’s very important, you know. With just the blink of an eye, you’re like six feet by and it’s very tough. I tried to grab the birdie opportunities, especially on the holes where I could get on for two on the par-fives, tried to come off with at least a birdie.”
That was the story of the day for Ko - frustrating misses just short that weren’t all that frustrating in reality. It’s those misses that enabled her to shoot 3-under today because get any more aggressive and you risk three and four putts on these sloping Royal Melbourne greens.
“If it was any other course than these sandbelt courses, I would get frustrated if I left it short, but here, I’m like, ‘thank god I didn’t run it three feet by.’ In a way you’re playing quite safe but that’s creating the pars and making pars out here, you’re not losing shots,” Ko said. “I mean it is frustrating sometimes when you leave it right short of the hole but, you know, you’ve just got to think about the comeback putt also.”
|Min Seo Kwak||70||-3|
WEBB IN POSITION TO REPEAT
Even par won’t win the golf tournament on a Thursday but it certainly keeps a player in it. That was the case for Karrie Webb Thursday, who had three birdies and three bogeys in the start of her bid to repeat.
“It had firmed up a little bit today, even right from the start when we played this morning. They’re getting a little bit firmer each and every day and obviously as the weather warms up, it’s going to bake it out pretty good,” Webb said. “I hung in there. It wasn’t the prettiest even par, a little up and down, but made a couple of birdies coming in to get back to even.”
Webb’s been working on changes in her golf swing designed to regain the distance that she felt she had lost in recent years. She’s starting to see results but they never come quick enough for a player.
“Pretty happy. Even after these years, I haven’t really worked well on my patience. I want it now rather than in a few weeks time,” Webb said. “My prep this week was really good so I’m actually starting to see it when I’m out on the golf course. I just need to see it when the gun goes off and just be a little bit more relaxed and trust things.”
LEE’S WISE DECISION
Ilhee Lee wasn’t planning to come to Australia. She had missed the cut when the last ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open was hosted at Royal Melbourne and wasn’t sure she wanted another taste. Luckily, for her, she trusted her gut and decided to return - a decision that could bring a financial windfall to the tune of $180,000 after climbing into sole possession of the first-round lead with a 5-under 68 on Thursday.
“I was not sure about coming here until last minute because I know this golf course is really tough. But I decided to come at the last minute. I know this golf course is tough so I told my caddie, ‘I want to be middle of the green, I don’t care where the flag is.’” Lee said. “I think that’s very, very important to play this golf course so now I know how to play this golf course better than last time I was here.”
Lee said the last minute change of heart came from work with her coach, Sandra Haynie.
“We worked before I come here and then she gave me lots of confidence I can do this, so I decided to come,” Lee said.
The initial fear has turned into an invaluable self realization.
“It’s good to see how improved my golf is this year, this week because I was here 2012. How I see the golf course at that time and now, I see a totally different golf course. It’s really, really fun to see how much I improved since then,” Lee said.
Since her lone career win at the 2013 Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic, Lee says her swing is better, her putting’s better, and her course management is better. That may not all spell a win this week, but after round one, Lee’s surely conquered any fear she had of Royal Melbourne.
KORDA RALLIES AFTER DICEY START
Jessica Korda wasn’t pleased with the start but she was certainly pleased with the rally. Korda started on the 10th hole - a par 5 - and made a disappointing bogey. Three holes later she took a double bogey on the par-4 13th but steadied herself with birdies on four of the next five. She posted an even-par 35 on her inward nine for a 1-under 72 to start in her bid to win her second ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open on the same course she won her first.
“It was a rough start this morning but a couple birdies late in the front nine really helped out,” Korda said.
Korda’s gotten off to a hot start in 2015. She was a lipped-out putt at the last away from a playoff at the Coates Golf Championship to open the season and is currently leading the Tour in greens in regulation through two events. She hit 14 of 18 greens Thursday.
“David Leadbetter and I have been working pretty hard on my swing and trying to get it more consistent, so it’s nice to see that kind of payoff a little bit,” Korda said. “Hopefully I can get more putts to drop but that’s a pretty good stat to lead I think.”
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN
Charley Hull held a share of the lead heading into the week last week at the RACV Ladies Masters, and she’s carried that momentum into this week. Although she had a four putt and a three putt, Hull left the scorer’s tent pretty pleased with a first round 2-under-par 71.
“I’m happy. I had a four putt and a three putt, so I got frustrated in that sense, and I thought I had my putt on the last, but yeah, I’m quite happy with the way it’s going,” Hull said.
Lydia Ko talked in her press conference about how running birdie putts at the hole was like playing with fire, and Hull got her shake Thursday on her four putt.
“It was like 25-30 feet, and I just raced it past. And it was just a crazy slope coming down again, like five or six feet, and had a bit of a blip on that hole,” Hull said.
Despite the slip-up on the green, the 18-year-old LPGA rookie is feeling pretty good about a tie for second last week and the start to this week, especially considering the circumstances.
“I had a good steady round. I just changed my swing coach six weeks ago, and I’ve been working with a new coach. So i didn’t expect to be playing as well as I am this quickly,” Hull said. “So, yeah, I’m looking forward to the season.”
NUMBERS TO KNOW
1 - Ilhee Lee has held the lead or co-lead only once previously after round one. That lead was at the 2013 Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia, which she finished in a tie for third. Ilhee has one career win - the 2013 Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA.
17 - Ilhee Lee hit the most greens in the field Thursday
32 - Lydia Ko needed 32 putts Thursday, well up from her 27.25 putts per round entering this tournament